My rating: 2 of 5 stars
After glancing at a few reviews by other fellow Goodreads readers I think it’s pretty clear that this is a book you are either going to love, or hate. And to confess, I’m in the club that doesn’t really believe that this book is as special as it’s made out to be.
The plot is based around a chance encounter between Robert Kincaid, a freelance photographer who Waller tries to sell as a cross between a magus and ‘the last cowboy’ standing and Francesca Johnson, a bored out-of-her-wits housewife in Iowa. The encounter happens when Francesca’s children and husband are away on a trip to the county fair. During this time Robert drives into town and turns up to enquire about a ‘bridge’ that he is looking to photograph.
Kincaid’s reason for being in Madison County in the first place is because of his National Geographic assignment to write an article about the Counties famous ‘covered’ bridges, which in all honesty was the only interesting part in the novel. In fact, as other reviewers have suggested, please make a point of going to see these bridges. It’s far better than reading the book! This spontaneous meeting and the subsequent short-lived affair that blossoms after is the turning point of the novel. Waller uses Johnson as a character to probe into the moral rights and wrongs of extra-marital affairs, and chooses to walk the moral ground of having her decline Kincaid’s subsequent offer of running away with him.
Essentially Waller’s message is ‘do not leave your family under any circumstances’, yet as we find out Francesca suffers immensely after her decision and never truly forgets her lover. The story is supposed to be about two people who are ‘soul mates’ and about finding the one you love only to lose them again.
To be fair, I didn’t really care much for the characters, because I felt there was something missing about the way Waller wrote about them. As personalities they were not fully formed somehow. All I can say is that ’Bridges of Madison County’ is a nice ‘easy’ read for when you just want a comfort book. It certainly served that purpose! And for anyone looking for a romantic, girlie book that is more conservative than the steamy vampire/ werewolf action going on in most romance novels these days, then go for this. On another note, I remember briefly watching the movie version with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep and can say it is an honest representation of what goes on in the book. I advise you watch the movie version. It’s much better.